When at the season-opening round at Abu Dhabi, I went to the Temporary Runway (TRW) at the port of Mina Zayed, where it was the fans getting a chance to meet all 15 pilots and having a chance to see the mighty race planes up close.
One of the main attractions at the TRW, apart from last year's championship protagonists of Hannes Arch and Paul Bonhomme, was a fellow by the name of Nigel Lamb.
Lamb is a world-renowned aerobatics pilot and is most distinguishable by his yellow Breitling-sponsored MXS. He calls it the most beautiful plane on the circuit, and when looking at it, he has a point.
I had met Nigel Lamb twice in Detroit last year where his MXS was still very new. He had acquired it while in San Diego ditching his old MX2. While it was new out of the box, the aircraft had its fair share of kinks and just wasn't producing the same results he would have liked.
In 2008, he wasn't very pleased with it and to add insult to injury, Lamb was disqualified in Detroit after flying too low. Basically, Detroit was a race to forget. Truly, the lowest point and nowhere to go but up.
The aircraft Lamb used in 2008 was a stock-MXS and constant improvements were made on it to bring it down to the minimum weight allowed thus making it go faster.
Nigel Huxtable, or 'Hux', as he's known by team Breitling, has been a pivotal force in getting the weight of the MXS down to the minimum that is allowed. Hux is the team engineer.
In comparison to Lamb's old aircraft, the MX2, the new MXS is nearly 150 pounds (68 kilos) lighter and according to Nigel Lamb's website "probably has 10% more power."
Now, there has been too much focus on the MXS but in Abu Dhabi, when Nigel and I talked at the TRW, I told him that he's changed a bit since we last met. He told me that he slimmed down over the off-season. By his reckoning, about 20 kilos (44 pounds) were lost.
Indeed, Nigel Lamb and the team have trimmed the fat off the MXS to make it a fast and agile aircraft; while Lamb himself made himelf a more trim person in order to tolerate the high-g forces put on the body.
This is just another example that the Red Bull Air Race has become more serious and competitive than just another airshow.
Stay tuned this weekend for San Diego as Nigel and team Breitling take on 14 other competitors in "America's finest city."